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  • Tag Archives Clive Barker
  • Too Late: Notes on The End of Humanity

    One of my favorite stories. All credit where it is due, the concept was taken from the Clive Barker novel “Mister B. Gone.” I’ve always liked breaking the fourth wall, and the concept of audience participation in all forms of media, but I especially love it in prose form.

    There’s a nod to the Stephen King novel “The Dark Half,” in it, when there’s a bunch of sparrows on top of the house at the end. I’ve always liked tons of birds or bats flying around, seems terribly evocative for a horror story.

    I enjoy meta fiction. This would be classified as such, i.e. a horror writer ends up in a horror story. Again, that’s a King thing.

    I guess films like “The Exorcist” obviously influenced me, as well as stuff like “Rosemary’s Baby,” and “The Omen.” I’m blanking on anything else recently. I’l update this if I remember any.

    What I tried to do with a lot of the stories in “Too Late,” was to have a monologue of sorts. I picture the character starting out alone in a setting: a prison, an old house, a table in an apartment, setting isn’t as important as the character. I wanted to have people telling you about things that went wrong in their life that they can’t change.
    I know it’s not en vogue lately to have pretty standard horror stories that work as character studies, but I don’t really give a shit about trends. These were stories I wrote over the course of a ten year period. I wrote many more, but I never seemed to like all of them all that much. And i think it’s because my favorite stories are the type that I grew up with. Granted, my newer work is a lot more experimental and tries to differentiate itself a bit more. But the types of stories in “Too Late,” are my foundation, and I hope that years down the line people will still give the chapbook a read, and realize that I started writing simple horror stories.

    I look forward to seeing where the future takes me with my fiction, and I hope that you’ll join me. Thanks.


  • Too Late: Notes on Fickle Mortality

    Fickle Mortality is the first story in the chapbook Too Late, and tells the story of an unnamed killer on death row for murdering people to use their skulls to decorate for artistic, and other nefarious purposes.

    If I remember correctly, I wrote this story in 2011, and I don’t think I even tried to shop it (a reoccurring theme) and instead threw it up on this blog. In terms of the atmosphere, I was heavily influenced by old King stories, and a few Barker ones, which of course took place in prison settings.

    Strictly looking at the prose, jeez, I guess there wasn’t one thing in particular. I’m heavily inspired by film, and it seemed to be a wonderfully cinematic approach. The story is written in the first person, and is, in essence, a monologue. Since I recently discussed it on The Rants Macabre episode, Killer Pilots ,I must have drawn from the pilot for Tales From the Crypt, consciously or not.

    How could I talk about a story where a woman paints skulls without mentioning it’s obviously aesthetically drawing from the Day of the Dead ceremony, and while I don’t picture the skulls the narrator paints as similarly designed, the comparison is obvious.

    day-of-the-dead-skull

    Not to get into spoiler territory, but the image I had in my head for something near the end of the story seems to have been influenced by this album cover (although it’s not nearly as cool).

    pathsofpossession-cover

    That’s all I can think of for now. I’ll edit something new in if I think of it.

    As always, if you want to purchase Too Late, it’s available through Amazon, and Createspace, and follow the links below.

    Too Late on Amazon

    Too Late on Createspace


  • What I’d like to See in Comics

    Seansouthernbastard

    First and foremost, I am far from an expert on comics. I don’t read any of the major DC stuff, save for the issue of Batman here and there, or something related to Batman. When it comes to Marvel, unless it’s a story about The Punisher, or something related to Stephen King, it’s a safe bet I won’t read it. I mainly read horror comics, and independent comics. And while I obviously seem like a pretentious douchebag right now, I assure you that I merely bring up my interests so you know what kind of perspective I’m coming from.

    Safe to say I represent the fringe of comic fans, the ones who have no idea what The Avengers are up to, or who Superman has laser-eyed recently (Does he use the laser eyes still? I’ve only seen him on Justice League cartoons on Netflix recently.) Regardless, when I walk into my local comic shop, or get an email about a comic, the first thing I want to know is the plot. If it sounds like something I haven’t read a billion times yet, I usually give it a shot.

    Most of the comics I’ve stuck with end up being because of an interesting plot, a cool way of laying out the plot, or a compelling character.

    And actually, when it comes to comics I end up dropping, I imagine it’s for the same reason I’d stop reading a super hero story. Blood and guts and cool monsters, or, alternately, great action, and cool villains simply aren’t enough. And when I say it’s not enough, I don’t mean I won’t read those comics anyway. There are plenty of comics I’ve read for cool monsters and blood and guts, or rarely for great action and cool villains. No, what I mean is, the comics I end up going back to, the ones I recommend to non-comic fans or other comic fans, are the ones where there are compelling characters, and a well crafted story.

    Alan Moore has an interesting book “Alan Moore’s Writing for Comics,” in which he discusses some of what he feels are issues with comics currently.

    “Admittedly, it would be fairly easy for the industry to survive comfortably for a while by pandering to specialist-group nostalgia, or simple escapism, but the industry that concerns itself entirely with areas of this sort is in my view impotent and worthy of little more consideration or interest than the greeting card industry.”

    One series I’ve really enjoyed in 2014 was been “Clive Barker’s The Next Testament.” Haemi Jang’s art, and the color by Vladimir Popov certainly helped, but primarily it was the story by Clive Barker and Mark Miller that moved me to keep reading this series. “Next Testament,” tells the story of what is essentially a hybrid of God and the Devil mixed into one rainbow colored being known as Wick , that is brought to our modern society after being unearthed by a rich man named Julian Demond. The story is haunting, grotesque. And while the human characters can often come across as very stock, Wick is fascinating. You can’t wait to hear what he has to say next, and his words are given weight by the fact he can also destroy a city in the blink of an eye. Yet, I’d love this character even without any powers. Wick just has this powerful gravitas to him you can’t help but be intrigued by.

    There have been a few other comic adaptations, things like the adaptation of “Stephen King’s Dark Tower series,” and “Clive Barker’s Nightbreed,” or “John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China,” which I’ve enjoyed. I like all of these series, but I hesitate to recommend them in an article about what I’d like to see going forward in comics. And the reason is simple: what I would like to see more of in 2015 and beyond, are original stories, be they horror or otherwise. Original stories as in original characters not from a film, or book series.

    Moore’s has a few good quotes pertaining to comics as a medium when related to film, and literature.

    “Rather than seizing upon the superficial similarities between comics and films or comics and books in the hope that some of the respectability of those media will rub off upon us, wouldn’t it be more constructive to focus our attention upon those ideas where comics are special, and unique?”

    I’ve found some of my favorite comics in 2014 were about, at least by comic standards, fairly simple and not mega-huge larger than life plots. Take “Southern Bastards,” an Image title about a corrupt southern town written by Jason Aaron, with art by Jason Latour . It’s one of my new favorite series, and I can’t wait to get my little wiry hands on each new issue. And straight up, “Southern Bastards,” is a simple story of corruption, and people searching for justice. Yet, the series is able to hit dramatic notes and hit me with the feels harder than anything else I’ve read this year. And it’s an original story, not based off any existing book or film, with a first arc primarily revolving around an old man and the town he grew up in!

    “The Fade Out,” by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips was far from a diverse cast, as it takes place back in what I think is the fifties in Hollywood, but this falls under the category of a different type of story leading to originality. I liked it too, because I’m a sucker for period pieces on Hollywood, or really any kind of story on Hollywood.

    One series in 2014 which really surprised me was “The Field,” with story by Ed Brisson, and art by Simon Roy. It’s only a four issue run, but it managed to pack enough mystery and shock, and most importantly memorable characters to make me plow right through it. A man with amnesia, and a world that has apparently gone bat-shit insane.

    In the interest of time, I glossed over a lot of the unique stylistic reasons in the art and the writing of the series listed that made me enjoy them so much. Rest assured that they knock it out of the park.

    In general, I’d like to see comics include different kinds of characters, from all walks of life. The series I enjoyed and listed certainly don’t contain any wildly unique characters. I’ve heard amazing things about the series Sex Criminals, but I haven’t read it yet, so can’t speak on it.
    The most important thing in my mind comics can do is to stop trying to rigidly tell “comic stories.” I was talking with the owner of my local comic shop one time a year or so back. I’ll paraphrase, as I don’t have an eidetic memory. I was telling him something to the effect that I wasn’t into traditional comics, and expressed how I wanted to start trying to write comics. Told him how I wasn’t into superheroes, really, so wasn’t into traditional comic stories. He sort of gave me a look, and proceeded to say some things I’ve taken to heart when it comes to comics. He told me that comics are a medium, and not a story type. He asked me, if I’d say I wasn’t into traditional movie stories, or into movie stories. I responded something like, no, I’d say I’m not into this type of movie, this specific genre, or I’d say the name of the movie. He helped me put things in perspective. Told me, there is not specific type of comic or comic story. That any story can be told in a comic, in the same way you could tell a story in a movie, or in a book.

    You can tell any story you want in a comic. You don’t have to write a comic in the hopes that it’ll become a movie, or get the respect of a novel. Comics are great because they are what they are; they can tell visual stories, but with the power of the written word. Comics occupy the sweet spot between visual art, and text based art such as short stories, or novels.


  • A Container of Terror: The Box in Horror Film AKA “What’s in the boooooxxxxx?!”

    seven-box

    As expected, I found myself positively inundated with smart asses commenting “what’s in the box?” after I posted my first article. Well, guess what? I’ma nip this in the bud, and discuss Seven right now. Directed by David Fincher and released in 1995, Se7en, aka Seven, tells the story of a serial killer, later known in the film as John Doe (Kevin Spacey), who kills his victims based on the seven deadly sins. And, of course, it has a famous ending involving a box, where one Mills (Brad Pitt), is delivered a certain package, with his wife’s head in it. Observe.

    It is a spectacular combination of varying perspectives, choice dialogue, and the wise decision to never show Mills’ wife’s head in the box, which makes the scene so powerful, and terrifying. But the terror is not just from the terrible thing in the box our mind can only imagine the sight of, but from the tension of Mills’ character, as he struggles to keep himself from killing Doe. Ultimately, he fails.

    The next obvious film to discuss is of course Hellraiser. Though we get to see the contents of this box (boy do we ever), this shape has become so iconic as to be as recognizable in horror circles as Jason’s Hockey mask, Freddy’s sweater and hat, Myers’ mask and jumpsuit. It is a wonderful device, and fits into the category of the cursed object, which I really should write a separate article about, and just might. Lamarchand’s box is not cursed, but rather works as a key to open a portal from Hell, so Pinhead and all his Cenobite friends can cross over into this world. It’s power is in its design, its intricate and geometrical design.


  • A Container of Terror: The Box in Horror Fiction

    The box, and especially its contents, has been a horror staple for many a year. You’ll excuse me, if during the course of my article I neglect to mention any number of what I’m sure are a great deal of stories containing boxes. Feel free to leave some stories with the cursed shape in the comment section below.

    The most famous box in horror literature, (yes, this article will be an exercise in avoiding innuendo, hard as it may be), is the lament configuration, Lemarchand’s box, from the brilliant novella by Clive Barker, The Hellbound Heart.

    This creation, from the exquisitely brimstone-laden mind of Barker, opens up a doorway to the gates of Hell, and releases the Cenobites. If you’re unfamiliar with the plot of The Hellbound Heart, apparently you’ve been living under a rock, and you can go Google it. The Cenobites of course went on to give fashion advice to the lead singer of Cradle of Filth.


    You opened the box, we came, and gave you fashion advice. We never told you to put in blue hair extensions.
    That shit is very tacky looking.

    Another brilliant, though somewhat lesser known story containing a box, is Jack Ketchum’s aptly titled story The Box from his infinitely rereadable short story collection Peaceable Kingdom.

    This story is about a man on the train two days before Christmas with a “red square gift box,” who lets the narrator’s son Danny look and see what’s inside his present. Unfortunately, said glimpse leads Danny to lose all appetite, and he withers away and dies from starvation. Though, Danny is perfectly content, and does not complain about being hungry. One night, mere weeks before his death, Danny tells his sister’s, Clarissa and Jenny, what he saw in the box. Soon, they stop eating. Soon, the narrator’s wife stops eating as well. It’s a heartbreaking, and incredibly scary, story.

    Here, we are presented with a particularly effective device used to scare. Stephen King discusses the concepts of this tool in Danse Macabre, when he discusses, to paraphrase, the concept of the thing behind the door. King references what he heard an author by the name of William F. Nolan say at the 1979 World Fantasy convention. The text can be found starting on page 110 of the 1981 Berkley edition.

    What’s behind the door or lurking at the top of the stairs is never as frightening as the door or the staircase itself.
    And because of this, comes the paradox: the artistic work of horror is almost always a disappointment. It is the classic
    no-win situation.

    It is common sense, as King goes on to explain by giving the example of a huge bug behind the door.

    You can scare people with the unknown for a long, long time (the classic example, as Bill Nolan also pointed out, is the Jacques Tourneur film with Dana Andrews, Curse of the Demon but sooner or later, as in poker, you have to turn your down cards up. You have to open the door and show the audience what’s behind it. And if what happens to be behind it is a bug, not ten but a hundred feet tall, the audience heaves a sigh of relief (or utters a scream of relief) and thinks, “A bug a hundred feet tall is pretty horrible, but I can deal with that. I was afraid it might be a thousand feet tall”…

    The Box by Ketchum, is not a typical example of a Ketchum story, as he normally doesn’t use this style of leaving most everything up to the reader’s imagination. However, it is a very efficient scary story, and it is the ambiguous nature of what this boy, Danny, saw within the red present box, which is so terrifying. The closest we get to an explanation of its contents, is on page 29 of the 2003 Leisure fiction edition of Peaceable Kingdom.

    “I don’t know. It was just…the box was empty.”
    He looked at me as though it was impossible for him to understand why I didn’t understand. Empty was empty. That was that.

    Something in this present box, made Danny, his sisters, and eventually their mother, lose all desire to eat. This leads the reader to fret over what it could have been in the box that could have such an effect on four people, of different ages. To add to the dread, only Danny actually saw what was in the present box, and the rest merely heard about it. We don’t know if it is the power of the thing in the box, whether it spreads some kind of disease of the mind; we have no idea what the contents of the present were, whose only gift appears to be a slow death.

    Though he is rarely thought of as a horror author, and rightly so as he is primarily a transgressive fiction author, Chuck Palahniuk has a wonderful story from his short story collection Haunted entitled, also fittingly enough, The Nightmare Box.

    The Nightmare Box tells the tale of Mrs Clark, and her fifteen year old daughter, Cassandra. Cassandra disappears one day, weeks after she has been to an art gallery containing something known as, you guessed it “The Nightmare Box.” It’s a box on “three tall legs,” “A tripod,” and it used to be in an antiques store, before it made its way to the gallery. It is described as “black,” and “the size of an old-time camera.” Each side of the box has “brass handles,” and you have to hold onto both while staring into the box to “complete a circuit.” The box has a “brass peephole,” on it, for you to stare into while you hold onto the brass handles. Long story short, you stare into the box, and you are playing Russian roulette with your sanity. For, not everyone gets to see anything, but for a very unlucky few, they see something so scarring, so horrifying, they have a nervous breakdown. They become withdrawn and hopeless. Needless to say, Cassandra is one of these unlucky people. There seems to be a lot of people who find this story, and indeed this collection, lacking. To those people, I say with utmost sincerity, you’re entitled to your opinion, but I love this story, and this collection.

    We can go back to Danse Macabre, to read more of King’s opinions on this, the thing we can not see.

    There is and always has been a school of horror writers (I am not among them) who believe that the way to beat this rap is to never open the door at all. .

    So this article doesn’t end up as just one long-ass Dance Macabre quote, let me go through the rest of what King says quickly. He mentions the film adaptation of the book by Shirley Jackson The Haunting of Hill House,which is directed by Robert Wise. It is the thing behind the door that causes it to “bulge grotesquely inward until it looks like a great convex bubble,” King is intrigued by, and its effect on the human imagination. He goes on to mention how “Lovecraft would open the door… but only a crack…” Let us skip to the end, where the rest of the meat of the discourse can be found, on page 113.

    My own disaproval of this method-We’ll let the door bulge but we’ll never open it-comes from the belief that it is playing to tie rather than to win. There is (or may be), after all, that hundreth case, and there is the whole concept of suspension of disbelief. Consequently, I’d rather yank the door open at some point during the festivities; I’d rather turn my hole cards face-up. And if the audience screams with laughter rather than terror, if they see the zipper running up the monster’s back, then you just gotta go back to the drawing board and try it again.

    While it is unfair to apply this quote to the stories and authors in question, as they usually don’t rely on this device in their fiction, it does bring up a valid critique of the method. Of course this device is effective; one doesn’t have to show anything. It’s the same approach as shutting off all the lights in your film or show, and relying only upon sound. The imagination is vastly superior and pumping in the fear, then any writer could ever be. Yet, it’s fun to read stories like Ketchum’s The Box and Palahniuk’s The Nightmare Box,for they allow us to use our imaginations.

    Finally, let us look at Richard Matheson’s story Button, Button or as you might know it, The Box which was the name of the film it was adapted into. It tells the story of a couple who receive a box, with a button inside. They are told that if they press the button, they will receive 50,000 dollars, but someone will die, and they will have no idea who this person will be. As you can probably guess, one of the two in the couple presses the button. You can listen to an excerpt from the audiobook version below.

    Button, Button is another variation on the unknowable effect if the box, much like in The Hellbound Heart. In this instance, the couple does not know who will die, rather than what the occupants of Hell will look like. Yet, isn’t each just a different take on the thing behind the door, which we can not see? The difference in this case, is we do get to eventually see the things brought by the Hell box, or the person who dies because of the button, in the box. But it is the unknown which is still the cause of apprehension and dread. And this is the power of the box with the horrible consequences as a literary device. This unknown effect, whether seen or never seen, is at the root of all good scary stories. It is this give and take which causes the fear response. And the box is a perfect metaphor for the concept of the unknown. The classic example is obviously the tale of Pandora’s Box. So, it’s been shown to be a lasting technique. Human curiosity leads one to open the box, and thus human curiosity brings about the undoing of man.

    Keep your eyes peeled for part 2 of this series, in which I explore the box as a container of terror in film.


  • Horrific Dissapointments

    The new Pinhead was anounced today, and he, well, he isn’t fucking Doug Bradley, and he looks like a big dumb oaf if I was to be honest about it. I’ve never seen the actor in anything, but I highly doubt he will be able to fill the shoes of such a great talent as Bradley.
    I’m depressed about the state of horror nowadays. Everywhere I turn, all I see are dissapointments.
    It seems that the only hope, is the independents, a small percentage of the current Hollywood genre attempts, or, the foreign horror films.
    Maybe I just want too much from my scary movies, like, to actually be scared. My Soul to Take looks abysmal, and The Ward doesn’t sound like its going to be any better. Don’t even get me started on Argento. The Third Mother was one of the worst damn movies I’ve ever seen, and I don’t know if I have the resolve to sit through Giallo.
    At least Dog Blood by David Moody is delivering the goods. I have that be thankful for. I’ve read a number of genre books, by authors who will remain nameless, which didn’t even leave me with any type of impression. They just washed over me like the tide, and when I was done with them, all memory of their plot and characters went as well.
    Please, Clive Barker, can you finish a book, so I can actually be scared again? Or, maybe Stephen King could go back to writing scary tales, instead of flat out dramas. Maybe that’s too much to ask.
    I need a drink.